A new awards gala honouring the contributions of young professional women in Hamilton debuted on Saturday night, attracting an over-capacity crowd.

Ontario NDP leader Andrea Horwath, Hamilton Mayor Bob Bratina and scores of the city’s business and community leaders were at Homewood Suites in downtown Hamilton for the inaugural Illuminescence awards, hosted by the online magazine of the same name.

The year-old the publication highlights young women leaders working in a host of fields, including business, health care, media, the arts and social activism. 

“The concept is about showcasing and celebrating young professional women,” said Alyssa Lai, Illuminescence’s communications coordinator. “We seek them out, write about them and write about events that are relevant to them.”

'With a city like this, it’s such an intimate community and there’s no shortage of ways to get involved.'—Alyssa Lai, Illuminescence Magazine

Presenters handed out awards in eight categories, including the “Legacy of Firsts,” “Young-Fem Leader” and “Guy Who Gets It” honours, to women (and their allies) who have been featured in the magazine. 

Winners included: 

  • Anisa Mirza, CEO and co-founder of GiveEffect, a crowd-funding platform for charities and non-profits; 
  • Maxine Carter, the city’s access and equity coordinator; 
  • Mary Koziol, a former McMaster Student Union president who now works in the university president’s office as a coordinator of special community initiatives.

Around 140 people showed up to the gala, said Lai, stuffing a banquet hall that was designed for 120.

The turnout, she said, illustrates the diversity of women who are shaping the social fabric of the city and spoke to how many opportunities there are to make a difference in Hamilton.

“With a city like this, it’s such an intimate community and there’s no shortage of ways to get involved.”